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94: Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, Author of "The Population Bomb"

Guest Name(s): Paul R. Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich, Stanford Professor Emeritus, discusses overpopulation, citing Sir Partha Dasgupta’s study suggesting a sustainable population of 3.2 billion. Despite China’s declining population, he argues overpopulation strains resources and harms the environment. Ehrlich emphasizes equitable food distribution, empowering women for smaller families, and systemic changes like carbon taxes. He highlights the need for social science solutions and global cooperation, urging young people to educate themselves and act on sustainability issues.

Life: A Journey through Science and Politics (Amazon) >>

The Population Bomb >>

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Acclaimed as a public scientist and as a spokesperson on pressing environmental and equity issues, delivering his message from the classroom to 60 Minutes, Paul R. Ehrlich reflects on his life, including his love affair with his wife, Anne, his scientific research, his public advocacy, and his concern for global issues…
Paul R. Ehrlich received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. Co-founder with Peter H. Raven of the field of coevolution, he has pursued long-term studies of the structure, dynamics, and genetics of natural butterfly populations. He has also been a pioneer in alerting the public to the problems of overpopulation, and in raising issues of population, resources, and the environment as matters of public policy…
The Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) was established by Prof. Paul R. Ehrlich in the Department of Biology at Stanford University in 1984 and is directed by Prof. Gretchen C. Daily. In pursuit of its mission, the CCB conducts interdisciplinary research to build a sound basis for the conservation, management, and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services, to evaluate factors that are leading to declining environmental security and increasing inequity, and to find practical solutions to that predicament…
Episode 94: Paul R. Ehrlich
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This show is pre recorded and furnished by media airtime LLC and Matt Matern. You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Paul Ehrlich on the program. Paul is a professor emeritus of population studies at Stanford. He’s the author of The Population Bomb, as well as his recent book, Life, a journey through science and politics. Paul, great to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.

Nice to be here. My pleasure.

Well, tell us a little bit about you know, you know, I guess I’ll challenge you right off the bat, I just read an article about China’s population going down from 1.4 billion a little bit, and that the trajectory is towards 800 million by the end of the century. So why is overpopulation a problem if the largest country is declining in population by maybe 600 million within less than 100 years?

That’s a good question, the top economist in the world, sir Partha Dasgupta at Cambridge in England who just did a 600 page study for the British government, including and that was with a big crew of other scientists, concluding that the world could be sustainable, if there were about 3.2 billion people in it. And everybody was willing to live at slightly less than the Mexican standard of living. Guess what, we’ve already got more than double that number of people.

And if China, if we’re really lucky, it might go down to something like 200 million people eventually, which might be sustainable. But China right now, has plans to use bulldozers to play in the world flat, make roads and put electric cars on them, and destroy what’s left of our life support systems. And it is wonderful news, that China is finally getting to the point where they’re having fewer births per year than they’re having deaths. And it’s typical of American newspapers to say this is a crisis. It’s a fantastic piece of news, probably not good enough to do anything about the end of civilization, which is likely approaching which all of my colleagues feel is almost inevitable.

But it’s good news, but it’s bad news that most people don’t get it. We have at Stanford a School of Sustainability. That doesn’t seem to understand that first question, if you’re going to do sustainability anywhere in a small area, in a house anywhere else, you have to know how many people are going to be sustained.

But a colleague of mine was told not to teach a course in demography and population in the School of Sustainability there. The School of Sustainability is populated by engineers and geologists, most of whom have not the slightest clue what invite is involved in sustainability?

Well, I that’s a fascinating question as to how many people can be sustained on the planet. Certainly back, going back 100 hundreds of years, there were people who postulated that there was going to be a population explosion, and that we wouldn’t have enough food to feed all the people. And that, you know, that particular issue seems to have been rebutted just by the fact that, you know, we do seem to be able to create enough food to feed the 8 billion people on the planet.

I guess the question is, How sustainable is are the farming methods to to feed those 8 billion people? I guess that is that your your issue there?

Well, that’s that’s part of the issue. I mean, there are a whole series of existential threats. One of the mistakes of course, that has been made by the PDU quite accurately, say what people say we had a green revolution. And now everybody’s fed, actually, hundreds of millions of people have died of starvation and starvation related disease.

Since the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution, was the transfer of already existing agricultural technologies from the rich countries to the poor countries. Today. If you distributed all the food we could produce. Everybody could have an adequate diet, but that would of course mean a very big change in your diet and my diet. But nonetheless, The point is that we are using up the resources of the planet that produce the food.

We’re getting rid of the biodiversity that is essential to doing things like pollination, we are draining the underground aquifers that supply water to agriculture. The soils of the planet which are critical to agriculture are moving in the wrong direction. Fisheries are being overfished were the equivalent of a rich, but stupid heir, who inherited a wonderful big fortune, and every year writes a bigger check on his or her bank checking account, and never looks at the balance.

And the balance is going down. And that’s where the economist Partha das Gupta pointed out in great detail, that we are dependent on natural capital. And we are living on our natural capital, not on the interest that comes from it. And the the very growth that is so wonderful from the point of view of politicians is actually the disease. Rupert Murdoch wants more people on the planet, so he can sell more newspapers, and have more idiots watch the fox propaganda channel.

But the whole system is going down the drain, Rupert will probably outlive it. I’m a to not outlive it, but checkout soon. So we won’t have to face the end. But right now, everybody is facing the consequences of having too many people and altering our life support systems. And all you have to do is turn on the TV to see it, we are dragged dramatically changing as you know, the climate of the planet. Here in California, I was just talking to a friend who has a condominium down on the shore.

She’s going to try and reach it tomorrow, because the roads in between many of them are flooded. People are facing huge landslides in the east, we’re getting more and more extreme weather, which as you know, is exactly what you would expect. If you heat up the planet. If you heat up any heat engine, you’re going to change the circulation. And that’s what we’re doing.

Well, you know, obviously, we agree on the fact that there is global warming, and it is human caused. I guess the question is, you know, you’ve raised a whole panoply of issues here. And so I’m going to try to drill down on on one at a time, because I think it’s better to, you know, kind of our minds to be able to cover smaller issues rather than, so sorry, I didn’t mean to rant.

No, no, no, no problem. But like, let’s just look at the water problems. And we’ll take California, for instance, since we both live here. And it’s emblematic of problems that are going on across the west and in other parts of the country as well.

And it seems though, even as bad as those problems are today, that there are some solutions to them, so that we could have a more sustainable future, in terms of, we can shift some of the water that we’re using, say down in the imperial period Valley, which those Imperial Valley farmers are getting more water than the entire state of Arizona and Nevada combined. And kind of shut down that as a farming area and use that water for other uses. We could do things like that, that would probably help us live a more sustainable future, right?

Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. We could do all kinds of things, not just on water, but on soil on our agricultural system. In general, on the toxification of the planet, we do not have to be releasing huge amounts of toxic chemicals all the time. We don’t have to coat the world with plastics, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The big issues are, first of all, the more people you have, the more difficult it’s going to be to do any of those things. And the second thing is, there’s no sign at all that anybody’s going to do that sort of thing because the we have financialized value in the world.

And being able to make money, even if it destroys your life support systems is the business plan of most of industry. And where is there a sign for example, all the talk you hear about non fossil fuel generation of energy, we’re still using fossil fuels at roughly the same rate we were 20 years ago. Except more but the we we’ve just been adding the wind power and etc. to the grid. We haven’t been fixing the grid.

We haven’t been teaching teaching people how to dig had a long, for example, with electricity only two hours a day, which is the sort of thing it’s going to be coming with water the same way. But you’re perfectly correct. We could do also things but that’s why the action in the academic world at least, is not in the technological sciences.

It’s in social science and the humanities. That is the big question is, why aren’t we doing anything about these existential threats? Why, for example, at Stanford, our students even talk about the extreme risk of nuclear war made even worse by Putin’s adventures?

Well, these are existential questions we do need to wrestle with, I guess, I would say, it’s just kind of the nature of humans that we tend not to focus until the gun is to our head literally or figuratively, on these important problems. And, you know, to the extent that humans are waking up, however slowly to this is useful, it obviously needs to have a much greater awakening much more quickly, in order to really solve these problems.

So I guess the question to to you is given the state of where we’re at, what are the things that you would propose that countries do individuals do companies do that would turn the tide here to, to get to a sustainable future? Now?

Right now? Yeah, that’s what that’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to get people informed, so that they’ll move on these issues much more rapidly?

Well, you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and the host, and I’ve got Paul Ehrlich, Professor of population studies at Stanford, also author of The Population Bomb, we’ll be right back with Paul to discuss his life’s work and what we can do going forward.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Paul Ehrlich, Professor of population studies at Stanford on the show. And Paul, tell us about your new book, Life a journey through science and politics.

Well, it’s a memoir, it was basically started quite a while ago, and written because, well, two basic reasons. One is, of course, ego, I must think, to have a big enough ego, to think that the things that have happened to me in my life are worth writing down. And the second thing is I’ve got great grandchildren, my grandchildren are now drinking buddies.

That’s what happens when you’re 90 years old. But I got great grandchildren, who someday might want to say, Whatever happened to that old man that you introduced us to when we were three, or four, or five, and then my grandchildren can hand them the Book and say, now that you can read, you can find out all you want to know. So that’s the basic genesis of the book.

But it basically, also, I think, is something that will be instructive, particularly for young people interested in silence, because the thing that I hope it emphasizes is not just an appreciation of the lovely world we live in, and how it supports us, because I’ve written lots of books on that. But it can show how a scientist can move from subject to subject bringing the same basic evidence based view of the world and have lots of adventures and do lots of different things, and meet lots of wonderful people and bi. At the end of the book, I did acknowledgments, and it turned out that I remembered at the time about 600 people who had helped me in one way or another.

We know from many studies that the basic size for a human group is somewhere between say 50 and 150 people that so called Dunbar’s number, but if I looked at the ones that I knew more or less, permanently, that’s about the number of people that I’ve had as good friends over my life. And they’ve joined me in many, many adventures. And I think people will find the book both interesting and instructive. And if they don’t, they can always give it to somebody else. But I’m very happy with the way Yale Press produced it, I had nothing to do with that they did a great job.

And I think the really important thing is to get lots and lots of people buying it, and then they, their lives will be improved. And I’ll be able to give more money to the organization that I support to fix up the world, because we have when the scientists of the world got together, and did an assessment at the turn of the century, 25 years ago, roughly, of the state of our life support systems, they said they were totally screwed up.

And, and and I said at the time, that the big question to answer is, why aren’t we doing anything about it? And so we developed with the we then called the Millennium assessment of human behavior, to try and understand why with all the stuff going on, right before our eyes, we’re still not doing anything about it.

And that led to a group called the mob ma HB, and is trying to get civil society oriented to deal with the big questions like you are dealing with, with climate disruption, to actually do something about it, not talk about it, not go to phony international meetings, where people lie about what they’re going to do, but actually do something about it. And that’s right now, that’s where my royalties and a world these are gonna go.

So your funding mob through your royalties, funding mob through BS through money that I’ve managed to gather, I, and I have a wonderful middle class life. And that or by world standards, of course, were filthy rich, you have to understand that if you’re going to have a decent world, you’re going to have to redistribute wealth and resources in some manner.

But that’s not a very popular topic here in the United States, where we are the biggest super consuming world, although lots of people that are trying to compete with us for that. But the Stanford University is not interested in that sort of thing. Stanford University is interested in getting lots and lots of money to make sure the Deans offices are well carved, carpeted.

And they can produce the kinds of people who will go to work for the oil companies or Wall Street and so on. In a world whose system is basically broken. We have a 300,000 year history as Homo sapiens as modern Homo sapiens.

And we started screwing things up 10,000 years ago with agriculture, and then moved on because we with agriculture, one family could feed more than itself. And so you ended up getting mechanics, and soldiers, and priests, and all sorts of people who did things besides just get their food. And we ended up with industrialization.

And it’s got some wonderful things for people like you and me. It’s had some hideous things for many, many, many people in the past. And we’re moving towards another period of hideous things, if we survive, because our technological capabilities now have made it possible for us to develop ways of killing everyone. And some people are threatening to do it, of course, as you know, and we’ve accidentally come very close about eight or so times in the last decades.

Well, I guess one of the topics that you have read, written a lot about is population growth. And what is your belief in terms of how population growth can be limited, going forward in a way that’s realistic or doable?

Well, again, I’m not sure how realistic or doable it is. But the first step I would make, if you had said, you may do one thing that will move the human population down, shrink it down, towards a sustainable level where everybody can, where we can go on as human beings for millions of years, and have fairly large populations, maybe a billion or two people, essentially permanently.

And the answer would be to give absolutely full rights and opportunities to women. Because when women have full rights and opportunities, they tend to have small families. And that’s, that’s a empirically verified thing. And yet, in the United States, of course, we have a Republican, generated war on women, so that they’re taking the rights away from women in the United States, giving them less opportunity, less equality, and so on.

So Oh, again, where I would start is where we’re moving in the United States directly in the wrong direction.

Well, in terms of the population growth in the United States, most of it is through immigration, correct not not necessarily through rising birth rates in the United States.

That’s correct, people. What you’re seeing now is the beginning of what everybody who looks at it closely predicts is a huge wave of migration in the world, a lot of it generated by the climate disruption. And what we’re seeing now is nothing compared to what we’re going to be seeing on our southern border and the European nations are going to be seeing, because of course, we’ve divided the world into the rich and the poor, we’ve extracted all the resources, we’ve designed the poor countries to a large degree colonially, to be sources of resources, the boundaries in Africa, are basically where European armies ground or hold against each other.

And they designed the countries, the rail systems and so on, to take produce to the shores. So they could be shipped to Europe primarily then. And of course, in the United States, the same thing with our huge prosperity is based in no small degree on the triangular slave trade. And so people have to first of all, learn something about the history of our species.

And that history going back 300,000 years, not a few 100 Or a few 1,000. And try and design a world where we have a lot more equity, and a lot more sustainability. And where we have a much smaller population, but much better treated. And that’s a huge, huge problem. And again, good way to start is to give much more power to women, but we’re not doing that.

Well, in terms of you. You mentioned, Latin America and our neighbor to the south Mexico is certainly experienced issues with climate change there. And what do you see happening over the next 1020 3050 years? With our southern neighbors? And what is the results of if, if climate change continues to occur?

Well, I wish I could predict accurately my three closest research colleagues are all Mexican. So I have a real personal interest in how Mexico goes. And again, it’s a mixed bag, they’re doing a better job on preserving their life support systems than the US is. But in general, they’re, they’re going to be mostly moving north as my guest.

And there’s a very big basic ethical issue, which is never discussed, but it will be on the show, namely, what are our borders ethical? Was the distribution of resources of the world is more or less random? What right does any group have to narrow down to a single border? The was the statement you often hear here is how did our oil get under their sand?

Well, that is a fascinating question. We’re gonna go to break and we’ll be coming right back after that to talk to Paul Ehrlich, who is professor emeritus of population studies at Stanford, and we’ll be right back. You’re listening to A Climate Change. I was talking with Paul Ehrlich. Paul, you raised a very important question regarding borders being ethical and where do we draw them? I guess, you know, kind of coming from a real politic view, it seems as though just from a matter of managing chaos.

If we created a borderless, planet, there’d be a certain amount of chaos that would be associated with that. So in order to maybe manage our problems, doesn’t make sense to stick with our currently drawn borders, and then to aid the neighbors, our neighbors to the south, such as Mexico and Central America, and try to help them solve their own problems so that their people don’t need to migrate to the United States.

Well, from from a point of view of real politic, obviously, it’s better to do what you just said, because if you just took away all the borders, it would be chaotic and that’s, again a problem traceable to the most basic of human problems. That is, we are a Small Group animal, we evolved in small groups, groups of 10s 50s.

Hundreds were the leaders were the best people that doing something that is your war leader was the best fighter, your hunt leader was the best hunter, your medical person was the woman who knew the most about plants. There was no class system, there was no significant private property because you were your mobile all the time you couldn’t carry stuff around the idea of mine was a relatively minor idea. That is this is mine. And that’s yours.

So we’re way beyond that. Now we’re a small group animal, trying to live in gigantic groups, and not doing a good job of it. And the more we face that and start asking questions, I mean, I’ve had my mind change a little bit, by a book by Timothy Snyder that I recently read about the Holocaust.

And I had been pretty much thinking it’d be good to at least reduce the power of nation states, because so many of our problems like the one you deal with it most are global problems, there’s no way you’re going to solve climate disruption at one country at a time. In fact, if you try, you’re likely to get wars.

So I was sort of against the nation state system in its present form. But Tim Snyder’s book pointed out that the Holocaust would have been much worse if there hadn’t been nation states that in fact, Hitler only really managed to carry out the Holocaust in countries where he had already destroyed the nation itself.

So that, for example, in order to kill Jews from France, and other parts of Western Europe, he had to move them to the areas in the east where he had destroyed the nations where there were nations, the very bureaucracy, protected people.

That’s a far out idea, obviously. But it’s an interesting issue of what are the effects of taking a small group animal, building them up into gigantic groups and then dividing them? Semi arbitrarily we know how nations evolved originally. You know, what direction should we be going? I don’t know for sure. But it’s the sort of thing that political scientists should be looking at.

And everybody should be looking at. And, of course, to a degree we do in the United States. Now, we have huge debates over whether or not we should be just a nation of white Anglo Saxon Protestants or a rainbow nation from many different cultures, colors, and so on and so forth. I like the latter.

Well, let me ask you in terms of the megalopolises that we have, I mean, certainly a lot of environmentalists and scientists will point to the fact that somebody living in Manhattan uses a lot less energy per capita than somebody living out in, you know, the rural areas of the United States. So that from a from a standpoint of energy and you consumption, it seems as though we’re better off living in cities than in living in smaller groups. So that’s, that’s part of the problem that we’re facing, right?

Well, there are advantages to avoiding urban sprawl, and moving into high rise cities and so on, because that leaves more room for the natural systems that support our lives. That’s important. But of course, the amount of energy used by people in New York is vastly larger than the amount of people the amount of energy used by, say subsistence farmers anywhere.

So it’s, again, a very, very complex system, and the big questions need to be addressed. Certainly, we know what some of the mistakes had been moving to moving people everywhere in automotive, separate heavy automobiles, simply was a mistake. And that should be reversed. We should, you know, eventually for for certain kinds of travel, co owned cars, things like Uber and Lyft.

Actually, if they’re not running all the time, I’ve got certain advantages, but having everybody have one or two cars is absolutely insane. And we know that urban sprawl is terrible. We should be tearing down ships, strip malls, and turning the back in the farms, no question about it. There’s all sorts of things we should be doing and you’re raising the right kind of issues but they’re not issues. that you find really discussed in detail either in the mass media or the on the web, anywhere else.

It when the President United States gets up and says, look, there are many too many Americans, we are aggressive around the world and have used our armies to get land and, and resources from people everywhere, just as other rich countries have.

And that is leading us to an end to our civilization to the things that we like, what are we going to do about how do we go to D growth, and there are organizations that are actually trying to move people towards D growth, there’s one called D growth, there’s another called growth busters, and so on.

Virtually everybody who’s looked closely at the world situation knows that we have to shrink the size of the human enterprise, if it’s going to persist, we have to start living on the interest of our capital, not depleting our capital, increasing our capital, if we can, but our natural capital is very hard to increase, and it’s very easy to deplete. And that’s what we’ve been doing.

Oh, let me touch upon a number of the issues that you’ve, you’ve talked about. One is investment in, essentially, of our resources. And one of the things that the country has not done a great job of is investing to preserve our natural environment, as much as it should example for California is saving the water that’s, that’s falling in the form of rain, and so that we don’t have to rely upon, you know, kind of, maybe desalination or other things that are expensive and energy, you know, take a lot of energy.

The other factor that you mentioned, and it’s kind of completely different, you know, part of the, the equation is the military industrial complex, it’s kind of necessary to, or that is part of the United States. But, you know, in a situation like we have today, isn’t that a necessary component, because we would have Russia going in and taking the Ukraine, starting a war of aggression if we didn’t have a military industrial complex to, you know, send weapons to Ukraine, Russia, China, whoever might just take over vast swaths of territory?

Yeah, well, that’s one of the problems of having too many people, it’s a question of Lebensraum. After all, Putin is claiming that he needs that land. Uh, one of the horrible things about the having a big land war in Europe right now is, of course, that the world’s food supply is partly threatened because of the rich farmland in the Ukraine, which was a target for the Nazis has now been a target for Putin, and so on.

And these, the fact that humanity is still stupid enough to fight wars, when many nations now have either nuclear weapons or the capability of building nuclear weapons and where we know even a small nuclear war is likely to end civilization. That’s a terrible situation. And you and I have to keep talking about it and try and bring it to people’s attention.

You don’t see the possibilities of nuclear war really discussed in any detail or the recent near misses in the mass media, sadly, particularly with the war going on now.

But I guess the question there is, I mean, we have the example of Costa Rica that doesn’t have any armed forces, Is that realistic for the United States or other Western countries to give up their armed forces? What’s the what is the pathway towards the demilitarization of the planet?

Well, the first one is to start reducing, we don’t need nuclear nuclear carriers to protect the United States from terrorists. We could start reducing we over build nuclear weapons, the reason basically being that it’s part of the business plan of the arms industry.

Right. Well, that that is certainly a point well taken is that we I think we have the capacity to blow up the world many times over, and certainly one time seems like it would be sufficient. But anyway, you’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Paul Ehrlich on the program. We’ll be right back in just one minute.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Paul Ehrlich, Professor of population studies at Stanford, professor emeritus, and also author of The Population Bomb. Paul, we’re just talking about the military industrial complex that we have in the United States, which President Eisenhower warned us about 70 years ago, that it would become too powerful and take society in some, in some directions. That wouldn’t be how healthy for the country, you want to make a comment about that?

Well, we’re putting a huge amount of money that could be spent on schools, hospitals, better pay for nurses and policemen, and other really valuable members of society and so on, in order to upgrade our nuclear weapons triad. That is the land based missiles, the air, the Marine, the submarine missiles, and the airplane carried missiles. And all that does is scare the hell out of the Russians because they think we’re getting ready to make a first strike on them, which would be suicide for us.

But we all seem to be interested in suicide many years ago, John Holdren, who was subsequently Obama’s science advisor and head of the OSTP. And I got drunk one night, and decided to calculate how many Hiroshima sized bombs that’s firecrackers by today’s standards, 15 kilotons would be necessary to destroy the United States as a functional entity. And it turned out to be about 12. That is, all you have to do is take out Washington, the end the confusion, New York to end the, the, the financial industry and then the road junctions around the road and rail junctions.

Because once you get rid of the road and rail junctions, most everybody starves to death, because the food isn’t produced in Los Angeles or New York, and you have to move it there. And if you can’t move it there, if you bring down the electrical grid, and can’t pump gasoline anymore, you’re basically finished. And it turned out that Russia, we only needed I think, was 11 for them, because they have fewer hubs to take out. Now, in that context, we have today 1000s of weapons, infinitely more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.

And we’re still building them and make improving them and threatening each other. We implicitly threatened Russia. If Putin uses nuclear weapons, we can use nuclear weapons. Well, what we know from many studies is if anybody uses nuclear weapons, we’re finished as a civilization even if China excuse me, even if Pakistan and India go at it, where there are a lot of people who would like to have a nuclear war there in those two countries. Because there are a lot of crazies, they’re like, just like there are the United States. We’re under a real, real serious threat that is not well known.

But certainly nuclear proliferation, hard for me to say that word. I don’t say it enough probably is is a very major problem. And Pakistan is kind of a tinderbox their, their government is very unstable, and they have a lot of nuclear weapons. That guy knows what could happen there. But climate is a serious issue there, too, that feeds into all this.

Yeah, of course. And yeah, I had some guests on the program recently, who were studying the possibility of, of putting I extending the life of ice, which would create greater reflectivity of the sun so that more energy was kind of bouncing back away from the planet, and could keep our ice from melting away as quickly in the Himalayas, as well as in the Arctic. And I know it’s heartening development. The question is whether it will be able to be rolled out quickly enough to save the loss of ice around the planet.

Yeah, well, that that is a long term problem. And I don’t think there’s any sign of mobilizing anything like the amount of effort that would be required to do many of the things that we think we ought to do. I’ve spent a fair amount of my early fieldwork in the Arctic. And it’s screwed I mean, thing the the Inuit now are having trouble finding the their normal animals, and we’re losing.

People don’t seem to realize that when you replace ice with water, you’re replacing something that turns down the heat engine that is reflection from the ice solar energy to ones that turn up the heat engine by warming the oceans, the oceans absorb the energy coming in from the sun very well. And so we’re turning up the heat engine and anybody who’s cooked soup on the stove, no, that changes the circulation everywhere.

And we’re utterly dependent on the climate, we’ve designed our agriculture around present, because types of climate, and anybody who has had their tropical fish tanks heater go off, or planted a palm tree in their backyard in New York, knows how dependent creatures are on exactly the temperature they involved evolve for, we’re changing the temperature for everybody. And when they go away, they stopped doing the things we need to do.

Let’s certainly we need to invest multiple times more money and resources on saving the Arctic. And well, you know, the rest of the planet, but the Arctic is going the fastest because the changes of temperature there are multiple times greater than they are at other parts of the planet.

That’s right, you would not expect the planet to warm evenly and it isn’t. And it’s causing. A lot of people think I should say, the climate scientists I talked to who think it may be that the circumpolar circulation is weakening, which is allowed blobs of arctic air to come south and blobs of tropical air to go further north. And that’s one of the things that’s contributing to the extreme weather we’re seeing here and elsewhere around the planet.

Yeah, well, the question is what we can do to make those changes. Certainly a number of people have said that the focus on individual action is somewhat misplaced, in that we need more systemic government action in order to make these types of changes that are going to be necessary to to fix the problem related to climate change. Do you agree?

You’re absolutely right, the government action that I and I think most scientists would recommend this probably impossible, and that is carbon taxes. When I see the price of gasoline going up in the United States, I’m totally in favor of making it $25 A gallon, collecting the taxes, then taking the the taxes, taxing the amount of people that people use, that is to raise the gas price that far, and then paying that money back to the poor people in the country so that they don’t suffer.

We know how to do taxes, we’re good at taxation. And that’s one way that we can very much change the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere, but not politically practical. And that’s why I’m so concerned that we need more social science approaches to these things, not the technological approaches, which generally are much too expensive, in terms of what they do to the systems we depend upon.

But I think kind of being agnostic to the, the actual solution to the problem. And giving tax incentives to people to decarbonize would then allow the creativity of the market and the individuals to come up with the best solution.

So in the case of gasoline, or carbon, just generally, whether if you can reduce your carbon footprint by having a hybrid car, or it might be better for you than an electric car might be better or different than a hydrogen car, you pick the one that has the lowest carbon footprint, based upon your own budget and your budget, you have to do the carbon footprint accurately, which involves building the car and so on.

It’s another very complex set of issues that are not really discussed as well as they ought to be, although a lot of thought has gone into that, of that area. I think the basic answer is you’re gonna have to have many fewer people and whatever kind of cars many fewer ones because they have to have roads, they have to be manufactured. We now go down, sometimes a mile or so to get carbon.

So carbon that is about 5% or less of the, in the OR, whereas originally we started out carbon SARP did I say carbon I meant copper, and originally copper was lying 100% On the surface of the planet, now we go way, way down to get tiny amounts of copper out or that’s that we’re going in the wrong direction.

Well, certainly using more resources is going to create more environmental problems. And so incentivize incentivizing less. Consumption would be a great tax to have because our tax benefit to give people for using less well, so much to discuss.

Thank you, Paul, for being on the program. Paul Ehrlich, professor emeritus of population studies at Stanford. Thanks for being on the show.

It’s my great privilege and the young people out there, get out there, learn about them and do something.

Amen to that. tune back in next week to listen to A Climate Change.

(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)

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